Biden, Mexico’s López Obrador find common ground on migration in talks: NPR


President Biden and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador have found common ground in talks on migration, the economy and the fentanyl ban.

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President Biden and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador have found common ground in talks on migration, the economy and the fentanyl ban.

Fernando Plain/AP

MEXICO CITY — Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador may have been one of the last world leaders to congratulate President Biden when he took office, but two days of talks have helped turn around in what was initially a difficult relationship.

Leaders found common ground on migration, economic integration and banning fentanyl. López Obrador, who is known to be recalcitrant, ended their meetings with nothing but praise for Biden, particularly on issues surrounding migration across the border between their countries.

“You are the first president of the United States in a very long time not to have built a single meter of wall. We thank you for that, sir,” López Obrador said, praising Biden as “a man of conviction” at the end. . of the North American Leaders’ Summit.

It was a significant shift in tone, said Rafael Fernández de Castro, director of the Center for Mexican-American Studies at the University of California, San Diego.

“Biden and López Obrador’s personal relationship is coming full circle, from being a little distant two years ago, with AMLO taking a long time to acknowledge Biden and praise him, to now that he has. fully embraced in a very cordial and political way,” Fernández de Castro said.

The thaw comes on the heels of a new program Biden announced ahead of his trip that will allow as many as 30,000 migrants from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and Haiti to temporarily live and work in the United States, provided they seek asylum from outside the country, among other conditions.

López Obrador praised the program and encouraged Biden to work with Congress on a path to citizenship for Mexicans who have lived in the United States for years after crossing the border illegally.


President Biden and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador depart for a long motorcade ride after Air Force One lands at Felipe Angeles International Airport on January 8.

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President Biden and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador depart for a long motorcade ride after Air Force One lands at Felipe Angeles International Airport on January 8.

Claudio Cruz/AFP via Getty Images

Biden made up for lost time to Lopez Obrador on this trip

López Obrador chose to boycott a major regional summit hosted by Biden in Los Angeles last summer. During an Oval Office meeting last summer, the leftist leader broached politically sensitive issues, such as US gasoline prices.

Biden, who places a lot of importance on developing personal relationships with world leaders, has spent far less time with López Obrador than with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has worked with Biden on issues at the G-7 and at the G-20, and joined the leaders in Mexico City.

The White House went to great lengths on this trip to address one of López Obrador’s domestic political issues, landing Air Force One at Felipe Ángeles International Airport instead of Benito Juárez International Airport, more convenient and central.

Lopez Obrador was there to greet Biden on the tarmac.

Biden “had the opportunity to travel with President López Obrador from the airport to the city, which gave them the chance to have a one-on-one conversation about how they see the world right now. moment, what they think,” Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters. “I think they both benefited a lot from it,” he said.


President Biden and members of his cabinet listen to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador speak during a meeting at the National Palace in Mexico City.

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President Biden and members of his cabinet listen to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador speak during a meeting at the National Palace in Mexico City.

Andrew Harnik/AP

Their meetings in Mexico City got off to a bad start

Biden’s talks got off to a bumpy start on Monday when what were supposed to be brief opening jokes turned into a contentious debate over the history of American support for Latin America.

López Obrador told Biden that the United States had done little to support development in Latin America since President John F. Kennedy’s “Alliance for Progress” spending in the early 1960s.

“It’s really the only important thing that has been done in terms of development cooperation on our continent for more than half a century,” said López Obrador.

“Now is the time for us to decide to put an end to this abandonment, this contempt and this oblivion for Latin America and the Caribbean,” he said.

Biden disputed that, noting that the US government has spent “tens of billions of dollars in the hemisphere” over the past 15 years. “The United States provides more foreign aid than all the other countries, roughly combined, in the world — not just in the hemisphere, but in the entire world,” Biden told López Obrador.

“Unfortunately, our response doesn’t stop at the western hemisphere: it’s in central Europe. It’s in Asia. It’s in the Middle East. It’s in Africa,” he said. . “I wish we could have one goal.”


President Biden and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador arrive at the National Palace in Mexico City on January 29. 9.

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President Biden and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador arrive at the National Palace in Mexico City on January 29. 9.

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Trump’s shadow loomed over the rallies

The Mexico City meeting marked the first visit by a US leader to the country since former President Barack Obama last visited in 2014.

Former President Donald Trump has largely abandoned regular summits with Mexico and Canada amid trade and migration struggles.

In remarks at the end of the summit, Biden described migration levels in the hemisphere as “unprecedented” and noted that he had stopped in El Paso, Texas, before the meeting – a city that struggled with a large number of migrants.

“We can’t isolate ourselves from common issues,” Biden said, alluding to Trump’s signature border wall project.

Canada’s Trudeau also referred to Trump’s tariffs and trade policies, without naming him.

“People remember what happened just a few years ago when the certainty of this partnership was called into question,” Trudeau said. “Investors, businesses, workers and citizens were all worried about what was to come,” he said, noting that “free and fair trade had won.”

Trudeau said it was important for the three countries to work together on the economy in the face of global uncertainty, the rise of authoritarian leaders and the rising cost of living.

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